Short works

Books : reviews

Richard W. Wrangham.
Catching Fire: how cooking made us human.
Profile. 2009

Ever since Darwin and The Descent of Man, the existence of humans has been attributed to our intelligence and adaptability. But Catching Fire presents a groundbreaking new theory: that cooking is the reason for our evolutionary success.

Once our ancestors began cooking their food, the brain began to grow, and time once spent chewing tough raw food could be used instead to hunt and to tend camp. Cooking became the basis for pair bonding and marriage, and even led to a sexual division of labour.

Tracing the contemporary implications of our ancestors’ diets, this stunningly original theory of human evolution sheds new light on how we came to be the social, intelligent and sexual species we are today.

Richard W. Wrangham.
The Goodness Paradox: the strange relationship between virtue and violence in human evolution.
Vintage. 2019

We homo sapiens can be the nicest of species and also the nastiest. What occurred during human evolution to account for this paradox? How does human morality compare with the behavior of our cousin apes? Richard Wrangham argues that the acquisition of language and the practice of capital punishment created a new evolutionary pressure, leading to the rise of culture, the domestication of a formerly violent species, and the emergence of humanity.

Authoritative, provocative, and engaging, The Goodness Paradox offers a startlingly original theory of how humankind became an increasingly peaceful species in daily interactions even as its capacity for coolly planned and devastating violence remains undiminished. In tracing the evolutionary histories of reactive and proactive aggression, Wrangham forcefully and persuasively argues for the necessity of social tolerance and control of the divisive savagery still haunting us today.